Explanatory Note

Question 5 of Iqbal, corresponding to Question 3 of Shabistari, deals with the nature of "I" and the real meanings of knowing the self or what is described here as "journey into the self." According to Shabistari, the "self" is a mere accident or adjective of the Necessary Being and possesses no independent status, nor does it signify the human soul. It is only particularisation of the Absolute, or, to use the metaphorical language employed by him, is a veil (barzakh) between the contingent and the Necessary Being. Being the seed of plurality, it should be done away with to attain Unity. As long as the sense of 1-ness is present, there is no possibility of the veil being removed, but as soon as one delves deep into the secrets of selfhood and realises its phenomenal character, one becomes free from the bondage and attains fana.

To Iqbal, this sense of 1-ness or what he calls Khudi or ego is the centralised force of life and it is due to this that the individual becomes a self-contained exclusive centre.. Its life can be maintained only if it be kept in a continuous state of tension to which are due all the manifold activities of life (lines 17-20). If this state of tension is not maintained, relaxation will ensue which will mean virtual death of the individual. According to Iqbal, the "trust" mentioned in the Qur'an (xxxiii. 72) is the trust of personality and egohood which neither the heavens nor the earth and mountains were willing to carry.

The ego being enclosed in the body of clay is subject to the limitations of space and time and cause and so is hampered in the full expression of its potentialities But there is a way out of this difficulty and this way Iqbal expresses as,travelling into self," of looking into deeper self that lies beyond the phenomenal surface. This is what in an earlier discussion has been called the vital way of appropriating the universe or to be born again and to pass beyond the spatial time that weaves the chains of days and nights around the neck of the ego. As soon as the ego is able to transcend this limit, it becomes coterminous with eternity and then its return to the phenomenal or efficient level is fraught with fruitful possibilities. It is now really free and creative. Like the mystics, Iqbal preaches "knowing the (real) self" but he does not look upon it as the end of all efforts. "Knowing the self" is only a process complementary to the intellectual efforts and as soon as it is achieved, he, unlike the mystic, strongly advocates the return to the phenomenal self once again.

[See Notes]